The way we see it, finance is in the midst of a transformational journey from tactical number-crunchers to increasingly strategic business partners. We’re certainly not the first to make this observation. But the fact that we have a front seat, partnering with more than 3,000 organizations to help guide them through this transformation, is an honor shared by few others.
For many of our 3,000 valued Adaptive Insights customers, the latest phase of that journey runs through San Jose, CA, where this week we’re hosting our annual Adaptive Live 2016 user conference.
With more than 1,400 participants, from six different continents and representing 23 industries, Adaptive Live has become one of the largest gatherings of FP&A professionals. The event offers 55 customer speakers, hands-on workshops, and the ability to network and learn best practices from peers and experts.
Day One of Adaptive Live 2016 was jam-packed with several tracks for Adaptive Insights users of all experience and skill levels and a “Tips and Tricks Theater” where participants could quickly learn a range of common tasks performed in the Adaptive Suite.
Record-breaking explorer sets the tone
Setting the tone for the “Journey” theme was keynote speaker Ben Saunders, a world-record breaking polar explorer who was the first person to successfully complete the epic 105-day, 1,800-mile trek on foot to retrace Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated early 20th century journey to the South Pole.
Saunders shared his lessons and insights from his many expeditions, and how they pertain to any challenge in life—or business.
“I found that the biggest obstacles actually weren’t the physical and weather challenges, but rather my own fear and self-doubt,” he said. “To combat that, you need to have self-belief; the belief that tomorrow can be better than today. Self-belief is a bit like a muscle. You need to stretch it and test it to make it stronger. With the right team and self-belief, pretty much anything is possible.”
Pretty much anything is indeed possible when finance embraces a more strategic role. Adaptive Insights CEO Tom Bogan shared his insights on how shifting from a tactical mindset to a more strategic approach can position finance to add optimum value—at a time when the amount of data is exploding and the pace of business is accelerating dramatically.
Bogan drove that point home in his opening remarks, citing increased global competition, information overload, and vastly accelerated product cycles as factors driving the need for finance to play a more proactive and strategic role.
“Just consider that there are 250 times more lines of code that go into a car built today than there were in the space shuttle,” Bogan said. “Every part of our businesses and lives are impacted by changing technology and accelerating product cycles.”
Bogan stressed the importance of businesses becoming more agile in the face of such dramatic changes. Yet, he emphasized that developing an agile finance process first is essential for the overall business to evolve in order to become more nimble and responsive. To that end, he highlighted three steps that successful Adaptive Insights users take on their journey to developing a finance team that delivers more strategic value:
- Enhance planning in which errors are reduced and cycle times are faster
- Optimize finance through developing driver-based models and rolling forecasts
- Transform performance in ways that insights from Adaptive Insights drive better decision-making and help guide strategy
“Remember when we did a budget once a year? Those days are gone,” said Bogan. “We have to plan on a faster cadence, and turn data into information and insights that highlight the most significant factors impacting the business.”
Customers experience ‘fundamental change’
The Adaptive Insights approach is resonating—and generating improved results—with many customers, some of whom shared their stories at Adaptive Live.
Case in point: Anthony Mascitti, VP of business systems for Cumulus Media, where Adaptive Insights has dramatically improved the company’s reporting and forecasting process.
“Adaptive Insights has fundamentally changed the way we do business,” Mascitti said. “The data existed before, but we had no way to manage it up to this point. From a budget perspective, we are forecasting now on a weekly basis—which before would have been unheard of.”
Mascitti said there has been strong adoption of Adaptive Insights in a culture that previously relied heavily on Excel. “There has been very little pushback, and when I have heard it, I say if 1985 called and wanted Excel back, let them have it. This [Adaptive Insights] is really the future.”
Adaptive Insights is also the present and the future for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society which has seen a strong adoption across the organization, with more than 400 engaged users. Nathan Taylor, vice president of FP&A for the nonprofit has led the integration of Adaptive Insights.
“Before Adaptive Insights, it was frustrating because you want to be a value partner for the executive team but you would get stuck in the mud just consolidating financials,” Taylor said. “Now it takes a matter of seconds to generate a report and I can truly be a strategic business partner to provide insights that can help make better decisions.”
Top execs share perspective
Day One closed with an invitation-only CFO Symposium during which several accomplished CFO and C-Suite executives explored the relationship between the CFO and CEO, and surfaced insights related to accelerating corporate performance.
Founder and chairman, Rob Hull presented the results of Adaptive Insights’ most recent global quarterly CFO Indicator research. And we welcomed the global head of KPMG’s EPM Center of Excellence, Morris Treadway, who presented the results of a recent KPMG survey that polled 500+ CEOs on their perspective of the CFO role. The research presentations were fodder for lively conversation from a guest panel who compared and contrasted the perspectives of the top two most accountable roles for driving company performance.
Panelists focused on the need to provide analysis and data-driven insights, as well as the ability to build a strong and talented team with the people skills to interact with others throughout the organization.
“The top thing I need from a CFO is for you to be a great coach,” said Godfrey Sullivan, chairman and former CEO of Splunk [SPLK].“Whether it’s coaching a business plan process or solving department challenges, I need that CFO to be partner and coach to the team when I, as CEO, am not there.”
Meanwhile Adaptive Insights CFO, Jim Johnson, emphasized the need for CFOs to provide clarity to senior leadership.
“I see a key attribute of a CFO as a simplifier,” Johnson said. “There are many people at the executive table who can be complicators. I think the CEO needs someone who is an objective partner, who is able to simplify complex processes and information.”
Adaptive Live 2016 continues on Thursday with highlights of new innovations to the Adaptive Suite and presentation of the 2016 Customer Torchie Awards, recognizing finance transformation.